"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"

Luke 15:4-6

August 27, 2008


We really haven't seen many hummingbirds around our house this year, until recently. In the last several days there have been at least three that have been in our backyard fairly often. We have a flowerbed encircling a lamp post behind our home. Inside that flowerbed, we have a shepherd's hook with a hummingbird feeder hanging from it. We can sit on our porch and watch the hummingbirds drinking from it.

One hummingbird has taken up residence on top of the shepherd's hook, and stands guard over the feeder. Anytime one of the other hummingbirds fly in to try and drink, it will chase them off. It doesn't particularly want to drink from the feeder itself, but doesn't want to share and let the others have a drink either. Occasionally it will change positions and sit on a nearby tree branch or on top of one of the flowers in our garden, but it's still keeping watch and won't let any of the other hummingbirds use the feeder. Once we even saw it sitting on top of the electrical line. Apparently, it has staked a claim on our feeder and isn't willing to let any of the other hummingbirds drink from it.

We were recently in Missouri doing some work on our property, and had taken a walk to the end of the dirt road that runs from our place to the county road. There is a house at the end of the dirt road that has four hummingbird feeders hanging along the top of the front porch. There were several hummingbirds drinking from each of the feeders. We were amazed! There were no bullies chasing away the others, but they were all sharing and using the same feeders, at the same time. I jokingly told my husband that apparently Missouri hummingbirds had learned to share much better than the ones from Oklahoma. The ones in our yard are constantly fighting and chasing each other.

The traits that we've witnessed in the hummingbirds remind me of the characteristics of people. There are those who are selfish and want something just because they can have it, but are unwilling to share with those who are in need. There are individuals who are constantly bickering and fighting. But there are also those who have learned to be content and live in peace, and share with those around them.

James 4:1 says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?"

Too often the drive to fulfill our selfish desires are stronger and more important to us than living peaceably with others. We can become very self-centered at times. We become so focused on what we want, or what we think we deserve or need to have, that we go after it without regard or consideration of those around us. A lot of times the major source of quarrels and conflicts center around a desire for recognition, honor, power, pleasure, money, and superiority.

Anytime there is strife in a relationship or within a church, nothing good will come of it. A church that has cliques, and makes anyone feel unacceptable because they aren't prestigious or good enough, or not in the right social class, has a huge problem. Anytime there is jealousy within a church, or those who are vying for a place of honor or recognition, it causes fighting and quarrels. Focus becomes centered on people instead of God.

I read a commentary that stated, "Strife is related to envy and refers to the vice of selfish ambition that prompts us to promote our own interest."

In our society, the mindset seems to be that we have to take care of ourselves and look after our own interests; if not, then who else will? In the business and corporate world we hear of back-stabbings and stepping on whoever happens to get in our way, in order to succeed. Marriages fail because the couple become competitive and one may receive more recognition or honor than the other, which results in jealousy. Or one of the spouses may receive a promotion and more pay than the other and it causes envy, which leads to strife; especially if the wife is in a higher position or pay bracket than her husband. A child may be the "golden child" and be an honor student and excel at all they do, stay out of trouble, and be the perfect son or daughter. Their sibling may have to work hard to make passing grades, struggle to fit in and seemingly always does what's wrong. It's easy for parents, family members and teachers to constantly compare the two and make the struggling sibling feel like the black sheep of the family and unacceptable. It can lead to strife and cause bad feelings between the two siblings.

We can become envious of a possession that someone else has, and think it's not fair that they have it and we don't. We can become caught up with trying to keep up with those around us, or in what someone's opinion of us may be. Too often, we think a lot more highly of ourselves than what others do. We try to guess what someone is thinking where we're concerned, when the truth is, they probably are not even thinking about us at all! I've been in conversations where someone will comment to me, "You're probably thinking such and such about me." Nope! I actually hadn't even been thinking about them or their situation at all. But the shoe's been on the other foot where something will be going on with me, and all these thoughts will fill my mind on what other people are probably thinking or saying about me.

A while back, it had been really hot and dry for several days in a row. Our yard was beginning to grow up (it really wasn't that bad, just taller than I normally let it get), but it had just been too hot to get out and mow. One evening it seemed like the neighbors all around us got out and mowed, but I was busy doing something else at that time. That did make our grass look taller, with their lawns all being freshly mowed. I was talking to my sister and told her that I had to mow our yard because all the neighbors had mowed and they would be talking about how bad "The Grays'" yard looked. She asked me why I cared what the neighbor's thought; was I in competition with them? Well no. And the truth of the matter was, they more than likely weren't even paying any attention to our yard or thinking anything. It's not like they all got together and decided, "Hey, let's all mow at the same time so Jon and Loretta's lawn will look really bad!" They knew how hot and dry it had been. More than likely, they were busy with their own interests and hadn't even paid any attention to our lawn.

This past weekend when we were in Missouri, a cousin was down at our place visiting with me. His wife got home from work while he was there, and a while later we heard their lawn mower. It was really humid out. He commented that he really hadn't intended on mowing that evening, but anytime his wife saw that their neighbor had mowed, then she felt like she had to.

I think that most people have some form of competitive nature within them. There have been times when my husband and I will be doing something and out of the blue, one of us will comment, "I won!" The other one will say, "I didn't realize this was a competition!" It's usually silly stuff and we're just having fun and joking around. And we make sure that is doesn't become serious.

If we're not careful, we can become caught up in competing with family or neighbors or co-workers. It may be something as silly as having the nicest looking lawn, to having the nicest car, or the most possessions, or biggest office. It can even become a competition in whose kids are involved in the most activities. It may begin as a simple thing, and at first we may not even realize that we are making it a competition. But if we're not careful, jealousy and envy can take root and it becomes a problem.

James 3:13-18 says, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness."

Romans 12:18 exhorts us, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

When someone does something to us, it's human nature to want to get back at them or hold a grudge. But over and over again in the Bible, there are scriptures that admonishes us to love not only those who love us in return, but also our enemies. We are not to get revenge, but let God take care of it.

It's easy to try and justify our actions and attitude toward others and cast blame on them, and not accept responsibility for our own part in the scheme of things. I've heard stubborn, hard-headed individuals talk about how hard someone is to get along with; without ever considering that they may be part, or all, of the problem. It's easier to point the finger at the other person. Once we admit that the problem lies within us and changes need to be made, then we are accountable and responsible for making those changes. And that can be really hard!

We are to strive to be peacemakers, considerate of others, and full of mercy. That's not always easy to do! But it's not impossible, or God would not have set that as the standard for us to live by. It may take a lot of prayer, and a whole lot of patience, but it is doable.

Let's not be like the hummingbird that is constantly guarding what it determines as being it's own personal property, and chasing away and fighting anyone who would dare come close.

In truth, that hummingbird actually has no ownership of the feeder. Jon and I purchased it, put the mixture inside, and bought the shepherd's hook that it's hanging from. We are just allowing the hummingbirds the use of it. We are caring for their needs. At any time, it's our prerogative to take it all away, if we should choose to do so.

That's the same with us. There is nothing that we own that is actually ours. God is the one who gave us the resources in which to obtain all that we have. He's the one who has blessed us with financial and material blessings, and has done so in order to care for our needs. But ultimately, it all belongs to Him. We are just the caretakers of what He's given us and allowed us to have. It could all be taken away tomorrow.

May we not become selfish with all that God has blessed us with; but may our hearts be open to those who are in need, and a willingness to share the abundance that God has so freely given us. May we be good stewards of the things that God has entrusted to our care.

I want to be more like the "Missouri hummingbirds", willing to share their feeders and water with their fellow hummingbirds and live peaceably with one another; instead of the "Oklahoma hummingbirds" who are selfish, and constantly chasing one another and fighting. But it's my choice, and is a choice that each of us must make for ourselves.


I can't help but wonder if we might have encouraged our hummingbird to be so stingy. We haven't been great about keeping the feeder full or clean. He might be trying to keep what there is all to himself because he doesn't know when it'll be gone.

But he doesn't understand our thinking. When we see it stay full (because he doesn't really drink that much, and doesn't let any other hummingbirds either), we leave it. It gets old, gathers ants, and gets dirty. But if he would share, we'd refill it more often. I think there are often times we try to figure out God's gifts, and mess things up just like the selfish hummingbird. When we get to ask Him about our lives face-to-Face, I think we'll see a lot of mistakes like that.

Even though we tend to run out of drink for the hummingbirds, the gifts that God gives us never run out. The more we share, the more we get, too. It's a common expression that the more love you give, the more you receive. God's love won't run out, so let's all drink up!


Caramel Cake

1 butter recipe yellow cake mix

1 (12.5) bottle caramel topping

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (8 or 12 oz.) container Cool Whip

1 cup chopped nuts

Prepare cake according to directions on box. Bake in 9x13 pan. While still warm, poke holes in cake (using a fork or straw) and pour condensed milk and caramel topping over the top. This should soak into the cake. Top with Cool Whip and chopped nuts.

**You can substitute other topping flavors instead of the caramel such as butterscotch, chocolate, or strawberry.


Have you ever been in one of those situations where you find yourself in an embarrassing position, and you have to figure out whether it's best to stay where you are and say nothing, try to explain it, or exactly what to do?

Jon and I were recently having some dozer work done on our 4 acres in Missouri. I have personally known the dozer operator for many years, and he's a really nice guy. We're not related or close personal friends, but living in the same small hometown, we've been acquainted for most of our lives.

On the first day that this guy was working for us, he had worked for a while, then left to go take his big truck and trailer home and exchange it for his pickup truck, and also to pick up some lunch. While he was gone, Jon put up a brand new hammock that we had just bought before making the trip to Missouri. He tied it between two trees in the yard of the family house, behind a big swing set. After hanging it up, Jon tried it out and as he laid in it, the hammock ropes began stretching and he ended up lying on the ground. He got out, tightened the ropes, and raised the hammock higher off the ground. He lay in it again, and it seemed to be fine. It actually needed to be up higher so that it would be more than six inches away from the ground once you got in it... especially since the rope was still stretching! Plus the middle where we were laying was stretching, but the sides were still stiff which made it harder to get out of. My sweet husband then wanted me to try it out. I had never ever used a hammock before, and Jon showed me how to get in it. Getting in wasn't so difficult, but the getting out was! The rope on the sides had not stretched, and my legs were too short to touch the ground once I got sat up and my feet over the side of the hammock, plus the ground starts sloping a little there. Jon had to hold my hands and pull me out.... after watching me try to get out myself and laughing at me.

Jon was busy doing other things, so I decided I'd lay in the hammock and relax. I got a pillow, a book, and a Pepsi, and had just settled into the hammock, when the guy doing the dozer work came back. I really thought he'd be gone longer than he was!

When the dozer operator got to the house, Jon was standing out beside the hammock talking to me, while putting a new blade on his chainsaw. Well, the guy was eating a sandwich and walked over, leaned on the end of the swing set, and stood there visiting with us. At first the breeze was swinging the hammock and it was really nice and relaxing. But slowly, I could feel the rope stretching out more and sliding down, until my backside was dragging the ground--literally! I thought, "Surely he'll finish eating soon and get back to work so I can get up." I knew my getting out of it would not to be a graceful sight to behold. Perhaps funny, but not graceful! We heard a car coming down the road and a strange truck pulled up. A friend of the dozer operator had seen him drive down our road, so came down to say hi and see what he was up to. As soon as our guy turned around to see who it was, I quietly (and desperately) told Jon to help me out of the hammock. Right now and as fast as possible! Thankfully, I was able to get out and upright before this other guy and his son got out and walked over to where we were!

After that, I only used the hammock when Jon and I were the only ones there. BUT I did finally figure out how to get out by myself! Still not graceful, but....


"Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need."

-Regina Brett


We love you!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read our newsletter. We appreciate you very much.

Loretta & Jon